Windsor Castle is facing industrial action over employees’ pay.
This is the first time such action specific to the royal households has been carried out.
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) opened a ballot for staff of Windsor Castle on 31 March. It will close on 14 April with action planned to take place at the end of April.
The dispute is centred around the role of wardens at the castle who are often carry out duties alongside their role, which they are not paid for, including conducting tours, acting as interpreters, and first aid.
The proposed action, which is just short of a strike, would see workers at Windsor Castle opting not to carry out such services.
Windsor Castle’s pay offer for 2014 was accepted by its employees on the understanding that additional allowances would be considered, but senior officials have since refused to reward staff these pay allowances.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary at the PCS said: “These workers are loyal to their employer and absolutely committed to ensuring visitors are given the royal treatment.”
Andrew Crudge, employment specialist associate at law firm Thomas Eggar, added: “Employees don’t often agree to work for free, but that appears to be what Windsor Castle has been expecting from its staff.
“Windsor Castle argues that the additional duties such as giving tours and acting as interpreters are voluntary. But surely these activities are essential for such a major tourist destination?
“Windsor Castle may be paying the price for its failure to incorporate these duties into its employment contracts.
“The lesson for employers is that staff must be contractually required to perform key duties such as these. Employers can only compel staff to perform services that they are actually employed, and being paid, to carry out.”
A spokesperson at The Royal Collection Trust said: “Warden staff are offered voluntary opportunities to receive training and develop skills to lead guided tours for visitors as part of their working day, and to administer first aid, as well as to use their language skills.
“These are not compulsory aspects of their role, and it is the choice of the individual whether they wish to take part.
“Wardens at Windsor Castle are paid above market median based upon the regional living wage and receive a range of benefits, including a 15% non-contributory pension and a free lunch.
“The Royal Collection Trust continues to award wardens an annual performance-related pay increase of up to 2.5%, in addition to the cost-of-living increase (in line with Treasury guidelines), as well as one-off payments to those who have reached the top of their pay scale.”